At the end of March, the New-to-Libraries Network hosted a professional development event centered around networking for librarians. Public librarians Maria Trivisonno and Jo Schofield from Cuyahoga County Public Library joined us to speak about their varied experiences with professional networking. Both shared their personal stories of their paths to librarianship and what they have learned through their committee work, conference attendance and other professional networking experience.
The common thread through both Maria’s and Jo’s stories was their willingness to put themselves out there, agree to available opportunities, and get involved. Each gave some practical steps and tips that new and established librarians can take to become more involved in the profession.
Their first suggestion was to become involved in professional library groups, whether at a statewide or national level. Maria and Jo have a variety of experience in this realm – Maria with Ohio Library Council (OLC) and Jo with multiple ALA divisions. Jo, who has spent time working on national committees, spoke of her experience with ALSC and RUSA (Reference and User Services Association), both subdivisions of ALA. Both Maria and Jo’s journeys to committee work have been tales of hard work and involvement; as they said yes to one opportunity, it opened them up to others. For example, Jo is currently serving as the chair of RUSA’s Sophie Brody Medal Committee, an opportunity which wouldn’t have arisen without Jo’s proactive approach to networking.
Maria and Jo provided the audience with a great breakdown of the different opportunities available to members of OLC and ALA, including committees, divisions and round tables. Jo suggested focusing on one area which you’re passionate about, rather than spreading yourself too thin. For example, Jo’s early career focused on children’s librarianship, but a job change shifted her focus to adult services. To match her new career focus, Jo shifted her committee focus to become more involved with those ALA subdivisions that align with her new position, becoming more involved with RUSA.
If you’re interested in getting involved with OLC, Maria suggested running to serve on a committee or division, which is typically a 2-year commitment. If you’re a new librarian, consider applying for ALA’s New Member Round Table (NMRT). There are a variety of positions available within the NMRT and experience with NMRT can be a stepping stone to additional committee work. (If you’re interested in learning more about these opportunities, visit the links at the bottom of this post.)
Looking for another way to get involved? Conferences are another great step toward building your professional network. Applying to present at a local or national conference may snowball into more professional opportunities. At a loss for what to speak about? Both Jo and Maria recommended focusing on the unique and interesting parts of your job. Do you serve an often-overlooked population? Have you created a unique program? Brainstorm about these types of distinct services and use them to carve out your niche. For example, Maria spoke of a Community Garden grant her branch received. In addition to successfully implementing a community garden at the library, Maria was later invited to speak about her experience at a national conference. Worried about going it alone? Work with a colleague or peer to identify and present on these topics. Maria spoke about opportunities at local conferences, specifically OLC and the Virginia Hamilton Conference at Kent State University.
Lastly, if committees seem too time intensive and conference presentations still scare you, Jo suggested writing reviews to boost your professional presence. Reviews help librarians establish a name for themselves, develop writing skills and stay on top of new titles. As a reviewer herself, Jo says that she receives about a book a month to review.
Inspired to get involved? Check out the links below for more information about OLC, ALA and other professional organizations:
(Note: You must be an ALA Member to access this form, which is used to volunteer for a particular committee of ALA, its divisions (ACRL, ALCTS, ALSC, ASCLA, LITA, LLAMA, PLA, RUSA, YALSA) and its round tables (EMIERT, ERT, GAMERT, GLBTRT, IFRT, IRRT,LIRT, NMRT, SRRT).)
-Rebecca Wendeln, M.L.I.S. Graduate Student, Kent State University